Master of Arts in Anthropology

I. Admission to Graduate Program
II. Requirements for a Master of Arts Degree

Graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Hawaii are oriented toward training individuals to become well-rounded scholars and teachers, as well as competent researchers and/or practitioners in one or more subfields of Anthropology (Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Discursive Practices and Biological Anthropology).

The M.A. Program is intended to assure the graduate of the fundamentals in her or his elected subfields, while the Ph.D. Program provides an opportunity for further specialization. The Department also offers an alternative terminal M.A. track in Applied Archaeology.

For further, more informal advice for graduate students and junior scholars, see also "The Other Graduate Handbook," written by Dr. Alison Rautman, who has given us permission to share it on our website.

I. Admission to Graduate Program

Students whose undergraduate concentration has been in anthropology are eligible for admission to the program. This includes those from the University of Hawai'i. However, students with other academic backgrounds are also eligible for admission.

Graduate Application Information


The Chair of the Graduate Faculty will select an interim advisor for each incoming student who intends to become a candidate for a graduate degree. Any Graduate Faculty member of the Department of Anthropology is eligible to become an interim advisor. If a student prefers a particular faculty member, the student may request that person to be the advisor. Faculty members may examine the records of incoming students and submit to the Chair of the Graduate Faculty the names of any whom they wish to advise.

At this time, Progress Form I will be completed and filed with the Graduate School (refer to General and Graduate Information Catalog for Graduate Division requirements). Completion of Progress Forms is the joint responsibility of the student, the advisor, and the Graduate Chair. Either the student or the advisor may later propose a change of advisor to the Graduate Chair if another faculty member better matches the student's interests.

Each spring semester all enrolled graduate students are required to submit a progress sheet, signed by their advisor, to the Program Support Office.

Three Person Committee

Before the end of the second semester the student is strongly advised to select a three-person committee. The Dean of the Graduate Division will officially appoint this committee upon the request of the student, the agreement of the proposed members, and the recommendation of the Graduate Chair. A student may request a change in the composition of his committee at any time except in the period between the scheduling of comprehensive or degree conferring examination and completion of all requirements for passing them.

Eligible Persons

Any person on the Graduate Faculty of the Anthropology Department, or any other department of the University, is eligible to be a committee member, subject to the agreement of the members, the endorsement of the Graduate Chair, and the approval of the Graduate Division Dean. The committee chair must be a member of the Anthropology Department's graduate faculty, and two of the three members must be from the Department of Anthropology.

First Conference and Study Plan

As soon as possible following the formation of the committee, and prior to the end of the second semester in residence, the student is expected to initiate a candidacy conference. The conference must include all members of the student's committee. At this conference the student will submit in writing a proposed program of study, including an outline of course work (in general terms rather than specific courses), specification of sub-disciplinary, foreign language and areal specializations, a prospective research project, if appropriate, and any other provisions deemed appropriate to the training.

At this conference the student's plan of action will be discussed and modified in appropriate ways. Admission to candidacy will be contingent upon acceptance by all the committee members, and the student, of the proposed study plan. Any major deviation from this basic plan will require a re-convening of the student's committee and consideration of the proposed changes. The new plan must be submitted in writing by the student and approved by all concerned. The student will work closely with the principal advisor to implement the plan.

II. Requirements for a Master of Arts Degree

All incoming graduate students are required to attend the Colloquium Proseminar their first two semesters in residence.  The colloquia are held on Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Do not enroll in any classes that will overlap this time.

A minimum 30 credit hours of course work are required for the M.A. degree in Anthropology. (The average course is 3 credits). 100 and 200 level courses cannot be counted as credit toward a graduate degree. M.A. students must be enrolled at the University of Hawai‘i full-time (8 credit minimum) for at least 2 semesters while completing the degree.

Graduate students must maintain at least a B (3.00) average. All courses taken for degree credit must be taken for a letter grade (A-F). Credit/No Credit courses do not count toward degree credit.

Directed Reading and Research (699) credits when taken for a grade (A-F) may be counted toward the M.A. degree.  Consult the Graduate Chair to determine the exact number of credits that can be applied in specific cases.

A minimum of 18 credits must be taken within the Department of Anthropology, whether upper division (300-400 level) or graduate (600+) courses. 699 and 700 do not count toward this requirement.

Plan A students must take a minimum of 12 credits in graduate level courses numbered 600 and above. Plan B students must take a minimum of 18 credits in graduate level courses numbered 600 and above.

Again, 699 Directed Reading and Research and 700 Thesis Research DO NOT count towards these 600 level credits.

M.A. candidates must pass with a B (3.00) or better:

  • 3 out of 4 Core courses (601 Ethnology, 602 Linguistic Anthropology, 603 Archaeology, 604 Physical Anthropology)
  • 2 Method or Technique courses
  • 2 Theory or Topic courses
  • 2 Culture or Geographic Area courses

(See the Courses by Area, Method, and Theory Designations or the course description booklet available in Saunders 346C. Some courses may be listed under two or more designations [for example, 'methods' and 'theory']. Courses, however, cannot be double counted toward multiple distribution requirements. Students must choose the designation they wish each course to satisfy.)

Candidacy Meeting: Students should convene a committee and hold their Candidacy Meeting by the end of their second semester (that is, before May of your first year in residence).  At that time, elect Plan A (thesis) or Plan B (non-thesis):

Plan A [click here for complete requirements]:

Requires enrollment in a minimum of 6 credits (maximum of 12) of 700 Thesis Research to graduate. 699 credits can be used to fulfill this requirement, but you MUST be enrolled in at least one unit of 700 the semester you graduate.

Plan B [click here for complete requirements]:

Requires approval of 3 scholarly papers on anthropological topics, 1 of which must be a Research Proposal.

The Department also offers a terminal M.A. track in Applied Archaeology.

Graduate Chair:
Jan Brunson
Office: Saunders 309
Phone: 956-2007